Pretty Much Nobody Has Jimmy Carter’s Back on This One

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Former president Jimmy Carter has managed to momentarily unite liberals and conservatives — sort of. When asked at a forum yesterday about Joe Wilson and the 9/12 protests, Carter said, "I think it's based on racism. There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president." Following up later in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, Carter added,

I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American. I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans. And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.


Now, it's not as if everyone disagrees with the substance of Carter's comments. Conservatives certainly do; as is often the case, they bristle at any suggestion that opposition to Obama could possibly have anything to do with race. Heavens, no. Meanwhile, many liberals agree with Carter, but, understanding the political implications of such accusations, just wish he would keep thoughts like these to himself.

• Chuck Todd and friends doubt that America is capable of having an "adult discussion" about this. But it's certainly not one the White House even wants to have, as "even entertain[ing] the idea of race being a part of the opposition to the president is political suicide." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Mickey Kaus calls this a "[g]ift to the GOPs" and an example of the mainstream media's failed attempt to "tilt against the Republicans." [Kausfiles/Slate]

• Carol Platt Liebau believes that throwing around the racism epithet "promiscuously denudes it of power." It also "creates divisions that are going to make it harder for the President to bridge when he later needs the support of voters who may be opposing him now." Hopefully the Democrats will realize this and "kick to the curb the cynics among them who think that Americans can be guilted into signing onto an agenda with which they don't agree." [Town Hall]

• Ed Morrissey plays the Palestine card, and claims that by Carter's logic, he would be an anti-Semite. [Hot Air]

• Joel Achenbach tells Carter that "these people who dislike Obama probably disliked you even more when you were president. They disliked President Clinton. They dislike anything that smacks of big-government liberalism, tolerance for gays and abortion and gun control, and so on." [Achenblog/WP]

• Janet Daley calls Carter's remark "outrageous, unfounded and potentially inflammatory." It's absurd for Carter to suggest "that a country which definitively proved that it was no longer racist by electing a black president with a near-landslide, is actually still mired in bigotry." [Telegraph UK]

• Alex Koppelman doesn't expect the White House to "jump in on Carter's side. Beginning with the campaign, the president and his team have been very reluctant to get involved in issues of race, much less allegations of racism against Obama, in part as a way of avoiding charges from opponents that he's playing the infamous 'race card.'" [War Room/Salon]

• Jason Zengerle believes that this is "just the sort of inflammatory debate on race Obama has wisely sought to avoid from the day he launched his presidential candidacy. Carter may think he's helping, "but, really, if he wants to help Obama, he should just shut up." [Plank/New Republic]

• Michael Tomasky thinks Carter is "probably right," but he "wasn't being strategic, and it's a classic kind of no-win statement." He's seen it before: "Whenever a liberal tosses out a charge of racism, the other side demands 'proof'. And since everyone has learned by now how to code and calibrate their language so as to stop just at racism's water's edge, there almost never quite is proof, even in extreme cases." Then conservatives "get to claim the high ground." [Guardian UK]

• Victor Davis Hanson says the accusation of racism is a "disastrous political move to save a health-care plan that simply has not appealed to a majority of Americans." Furthermore, he wonders "why the Left is now nearly unhinged about criticism of a black liberal president, when it was silent (well, there was always Harry Belafonte ... ) about the racial implications of the constant and vicious anger directed at Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, not to mention the rather personal, condescending attacks on Alberto Gonzales." [Corner/National Review]

• Peter Kirsanow mocks, "It's this type of extraordinary, almost telepathic insight that made Mr. Carter one of the most successful presidents in history." [Corner/National Review]

• Paul Raushenbush agrees "that this opposition movement is displaying a deeply held, yet perhaps unconscious racial distrust of the president. What else would lead a white man from South Carolina to feel he has the right to yell down the sitting president of the United States who is African American?" [Progressive Revival/Beliefnet]

• Ta-Nehisi Coates says that "one reason some of us try to avoid this discussion is because of its enormous potential for distraction. From a black perspective, I care about the disproportionate number of black people who are sick and dying, not the contents of Joe Wilson's heart." [Atlantic]